McAfee Slammed for Fees in Infringement Case
(CN) - Eccentric software tycoon John McAfee must cover a New Jersey company's six-figure legal fees, a federal judge ruled, citing the "unusual" nature of the case.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick noted in the Aug. 7 decision that Cognizant Technology Solutions made "numerous" attempts to effect service of the complaint, summons and other documents after suing McAfee dba Future Tense Central in March.
Claiming that McAfee, founder of the eponymous anti-virus company, infringed on Cognizant's mobile application, the plaintiff attempted personal service on McAfee at two separate residences in California. It also attempted to give notice of the San Francisco action via overnight mail at two additional addresses - in Oregon and Colorado - as well as by email and through McAfee's personal website.
McAfee made no court appearance to oppose a temporary restraining order or an order to show cause, and Orrick deemed him served in April. On Cognizant's motion, Orrick entered default judgment against McAfee in June.
In the midst of this litigation, McAfee has reportedly been the outlaw life, on the run since he was identified as a "person of interest" in the November 2012 murder of his neighbor in Belize, Gregory Faull.
CNN reported that McAfee was living in Canada, "reveling in Montreal's art scene," this past January. A USA Today reporter met up with McAfee and his collection of 10 shotguns in Tennessee later that year.
McAfee says he was framed in Belize and now must zig-zag the United States to keep ahead of the cartel.
Though Belizean police are reportedly not pursuing McAfee's imprisonment, his seized assets were auctioned off and his house burned down "under suspicious circumstances," CNN reported.
"Although this case was unusual insofar as the defendant attempted to evade service, the underlying matter was a straightforward trademark infringement case," Orrick wrote. "The allegation was that McAfee was releasing a downloadable application using a name 'identical' to Cognizant."
Orrick repeated the term "unusual" in reducing Cognizant's request for $158,678.51 in legal fees.
"While this case was unusual because of the difficulty in serving the defendant, the underlying legal issues were not complicated, especially for a firm of the caliber of the plaintiff's counsel," Orrick wrote. "Cognizant's counsel failed to establish entitlement to, and the reasonableness of, many time entries because of insufficient descriptions, redacted entries, and unreasonable time devoted to certain tasks. I am reducing the award to $130,341.73."
Cognizant's counsel, DLA Piper, charged from $263.50 to $650 per hour for its services, the judge added, calling the rates "reasonable."
However, attorney Rajiv Dharnidharka made "numerous billing entries that merely state that 'attention' was given to some subject without further description about what effort was expended or what task was accomplished," Orrick said.
DLA Piper also billed 10.5 hours at a rate of $433.50, in three separate entries, for work by "specialist" James Brachulis. All three entries, Orrick said, simply state that Brachulis conducted "due diligence per request of [DLA Piper partner Leon] Medzhibovsky related to J. McAfee" without further explanation of what precisely was done.
Had a junior attorney or non-attorney completed the work, "certain tasks could have been performed more efficiently or would have been more cost-effectively performed," according to the ruling.
"Cognizant's counsel did good work in this case and achieved the desired result for their client," Orrick wrote. "They charge premium rates that are justified by their education, experience, and the quality of the work performed. They are entitled to their reasonable fees and costs. I have no doubt, too, that the individuals for whom Cognizant requests fees performed the tasks described. But I have an independent obligation to ensure that all fee requests are reasonable and sufficiently justified."
The ordered amount includes $124,906.18 in fees and $5,435.55 in costs. Cognizant is also entitled to the return of a $100 bond.